Commodities face mixed week amid economic gloom

Commodity markets enjoyed mixed fortunes this week as traders balanced gloomy eurozone economic news, alongside contrasting jobs data and "fiscal cliff" fears in the United States.

Many markets fell heavily along with the euro on Thursday after the European Central Bank forecast that the recession-mired eurozone economy would continue to contract next year and only return to growth in 2014.

Sentiment was also rocked by news that the 17-nation eurozone tipped into recession in the third quarter or three months to September, with the economy shrinking 0.1 percent from the second quarter, when it contracted 0.2 percent.

OIL: Brent prices dived to one-month lows this week on the back of eurozone gloom and the strong greenback, which makes dollar-priced commodities more expensive for buyers using weaker currencies and tends to hit demand.

"Crude oil markets eased this week, weighed by weakening macro-economic sentiment," said Barclays analyst Suki Cooper.

The European Central Bank forecast that the euro area economy will shrink by 0.5 percent in 2012 and another 0.3 percent in 2013, instead of growing by 0.5 percent next year as previously estimated.

The bank also opted not to cut its benchmark interest rate but chief Mario Draghi left the door open for a rate cut in the future.

Germany's Bundesbank meanwhile warned that the eurozone powerhouse nation could sink into recession early next year, but was well placed to rebound strongly.

Prices took another blow from news of shrinking US manufacturing activity and downbeat jobs data from payrolls firm ADP.

However, crude futures won a very brief boost on Friday after better-than-expected non-farm payrolls data in the United States, which is a top consumer of many raw materials.

The US unemployment rate fell in November to a near four-year low at 7.7 percent, which was the lowest point since December 2008, while the US economy added a better-than-expected 146,000 jobs in November.

Market expectations had been for the jobless rate to rise to 8.0 percent with 90,000 net jobs created.

Meanwhile, the lack of a breakthrough over the fiscal cliff in Washington has kept a cloud hanging over markets.

Congress and the White House have until the end of the month to come up with new legislation to avert the harsh spending cuts and tax hikes programmed for January under the fiscal cliff package.

"Political deadlock in Washington may start to spook the market as we get closer to the fiscal cliff that the US will hit unless a deal between Republicans and Democrats is reached soon," warned research director Kathleen Brooks.

Next week, attention will switch to Vienna, where the 12-nation Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) will decide the cartel's oil production ceiling.

By Friday on the New York Mercantile Exchange, West Texas Intermediate (WTI) or light sweet crude for delivery in January sank to $86.27 a barrel from $87.85 a week earlier.

On London's Intercontinental Exchange, Brent North Sea crude for January fell to $106.93 a barrel from $110.53.

PRECIOUS METALS: Gold prices hit a one-month low at $1,684.77 but clawed back some losses on speculation over European action to boost growth, traders said.

"Gold has bounced from its lows as the market prices in the likelihood of short term liquidity measures in Europe following weak GDP data, and (pushed) the precious metal higher," said CMC Markets analyst Michael Hewson.

By late Friday on the London Bullion Market, gold fell to $1,701.50 an ounce from $1,726 a week earlier.

Silver slid to $32.85 an ounce from $34.28.

On the London Platinum and Palladium Market, platinum gained to $1,600 an ounce from $1,612.

Palladium climbed to $698 an ounce from $685.

BASE METALS: Base or industrial metals mainly fell on the stronger dollar and poor economic news.

"Metals finished slightly weaker mostly on currency influences; the euro dropped after the ECB downgraded its growth outlook for the region's economy, saying that it now expects growth to likely shrink next year as well before moving into positive territory in 2014," noted INTL FCStone analyst Edward Meir.

By late Friday on the London Metal Exchange, copper for delivery in three months rose to $8,035 a tonne from $7,933 a week earlier.

Three-month aluminium was unchanged at $2,080 per tonne.

Three-month lead slid to $2,199 a tonne from $2,239.

Three-month tin decreased to $21,600 a tonne from $21,790.

Three-month nickel sank to $17,113 a tonne from $17,200.

Three-month zinc fell to $2,019 a tonne from $2,048.

COCOA: Prices retreated on profit-taking as traders eyed the prospect of rising supplies in West Africa.

"Profit-taking following a recent rally was also an undermining price influence," said trading magazine Public Ledger.

"Pressure from the advancing harvest in West Africa, as most operations are now underway, also added to the bearish price sentiment."

By Friday on LIFFE, London's futures exchange, cocoa for delivery in March dropped to £1,551 a tonne from £1,567 a week earlier.

On New York's NYBOT-ICE exchange, cocoa for March dipped to $2,424 a tonne from $2,457 a week earlier.

COFFEE: Arabica-quality coffee beans struck a 2.5-year low at 146.35 cents a pound, weighed down by a large harvest in Brazil.

"Once again, a record Brazilian crop is weighing over the complex," said analyst Edward Meir at brokerage INTL FCStone.

By Friday on NYBOT-ICE, Arabica for delivery in March slid to 150 US cents a pound from 155.95 a week earlier.

On LIFFE, Robusta for January tumbled to $1,893 a tonne from $1,927 a week earlier.

SUGAR: Prices rebounded slightly from recent losses.

By Friday on LIFFE, the price of a tonne of white sugar for delivery in March rose to $516 from $512.60 a week earlier.

On NYBOT-ICE, the price of unrefined sugar for March increased to 19.31 US cents a pound from 19.23 cents the previous week.

GRAINS AND SOYA: Maize and wheat prices fell, while soya eked out slender gains.

By Friday on the Chicago Board of Trade, maize for delivery in March dipped to $7.36 a bushel from $7.52 a week earlier.

January-dated soyabean meal -- used in animal feed -- increased to $14.83 a bushel from $14.38.

Wheat for December eased to $8.56 a bushel from $8.63.

RUBBER: Prices climbed with the Malaysian ringgit weakening against the US dollar, attracting overseas buyers, while positive Chinese economic data also boosted confidence.

The Malaysian Rubber Board's benchmark SMR20 ended the week at 283.15 US cents a kilo, up from 279.50 cents the previous week.



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